At the end of December, President Joe Biden signed the FY23 omnibus spending bill that passed the Senate on December 22nd, 2022. Included in that spending package was $210,000 in Congressionally Directed Spending from Senator Bernie Sanders for the Vermont History Center in Barre, Vermont.
The History Center is where the Vermont Historical Society’s massive collection of items, the Leahy Library, a community room, and administrative offices are housed, as well as the Department of Libraries and Vermont Archaeology Heritage Center. It also includes a small exhibit space that houses their “Icons & Oddities” exhibit and some other larger items currently on public display. When they initially acquired the building (formerly the Spaulding High School), they had big plans to transform it into a place to showcase more of their collection, setting aside two large rooms for that purpose.
With this spending package, those plans will finally be fully realized: the money in that bill will go toward finishing those long-laid plans by installing shelving and casework in those two rooms in the History Center. Once complete, they’ll be used to show off thousands of items that they haven’t been able to display. This funding comes in addition to a number of donors who helped fund the renovation of the History Center in 2000,
What is open storage? It’s just as it sounds: storage that will allow us to retain items in the room in a way that can be easily viewed by the general public. This is different from what the Society has at its Vermont History Museum in Montpelier, where a number of items from their collection on display. The items and exhibits there have been interpreted for the public: collectively, they tell the story of any number of facets of history, from the lives of early Abenaki tribes to general stores of the 1800s, to the Common Cracker, the American Civil War, granite mining, and more. The items displayed in the open storage galleries will likely have some interpretation, like labels to identify what those items are or be organized in some broad themes, but won’t be set up like traditional exhibits.
Currently, the Society has around 30,000 items in their collection, and a vast majority of that collection is stored in a number of storage rooms throughout the building. These rooms are climate-controlled rooms filled with shelves that hold all of the items and allows curators to find them when needed. For that reason, they’re not easily accessible to the general public, and thus are out of sight. With these two new galleries, they’ll be able to bring those items into view.
Now that we have funding for open storage, they’re getting ready to begin purchasing furniture and casework for display. They don’t yet have a timeline for when these galleries will open to the public, but that will be reported in the New York Almanack when it occurs.
Photo of Vermont History Center provided.